The pandemic’s effect on private school entrance examinations

It has been an unprecedented 14 months for students. Due to COVID-19, they had no choice but to acclimate to at first, online learning, then the hybrid model, as education could not go into lockdown due to the pandemic. The school year had to be completed, which meant school finals and national exams also had to be completed for the 2019/2020 academic year. Then, there were the students who needed to sit entrance exams for the various private sector schools, and how the tumultuous period would reflect on results from students seeking entrance into the institutions.

Catholic Board of Education

Claudette Rolle, Catholic Board of Education (CBE) director, said 200 students sat the seventh grade placement examination for CBE schools and that the number of students who passed, outright dropped by approximately five percent, which means the number of students accepted on probation, increased by the same percentage.

“Based on data the CBE has for seventh grade placement examinations, in comparison to previous years, the scores in essay writing, grammar and mathematics computation were lower in some cases by 10 percent,” said Rolle.

Results for early learners entering kindergarten, Rolle said, did not change.

“The greatest challenge was in the legible formation of letters, numbers, and coordination activities, which require more fine and gross motor skills (formation of numbers and letters, catching a ball, etc.).

“When all grade levels return for in-person, there are some learning gaps that will have to be addressed in the core areas of literacy and numeracy, especially from grades three through eight. We also see the need for more emphasis on critical thinking.”

Rolle said the CBE, the largest education system in the country which has oversight for Aquinas College; Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Academy; St. Francis de Sales School; Sts. Francis & Joseph School; St. Thomas More; Xavier’s Lower School; and Every Child Counts, also noted a decline in the number of inquiries for early learning grade levels decreased by approximately five percent.

“What must be kept in mind is that schools are accepting students based on the room capacity with physical distancing of three feet in play. If the competent authority determines that schools may resume without the physical distancing mandate, then we will be able to accept more students rather than waitlist them.”

Rolle said the number of students for seventh grade remained the same, but admits they saw an increase in inquiries for other grade levels at the high school, but because of physical distancing, CBE schools will be unable to accommodate them for the 2021/2022 academic year.

The CBE director said while there are some positive aspects to the shift in the delivery of education because of the pandemic, the examination results and other internal assessments clearly show that there is value in consistent physical engagement with students, especially at the primary level.

As schools begin the 2020/2021 academic year windup, Rolle said the CBE’s preferred model for the next school year is in-person learning, but that if the authorities determine that only 50 percent of enrolled students are permitted on campus daily, that the hybrid model would continue.

St. Augustine’s College

St. Augustine’s College (SAC) did not notice a difference in results from students sitting their entrance exam, according to Sonja Knowles, principal.

“The pass rate is on par with how it has been in the past,” said Knowles. “It doesn’t appear as if the students have been affected negatively based on the scores.”

Owing to class size restrictions due to the pandemic, SAC did not accept applications for students other than those in sixth grade seeking acceptance into seventh grade. Over 90 percent of SAC’s students returned to in-person instruction.

But she said the institution saw a decline in students seeking admission.

Knowles said in 2020, SAC had 364 sixth grade students sit its entrance exam, and enrolled 144. This year, she said 294 students sat the exam.

Like CBE schools, whether SAC has its students return to the classroom full time in the fall, she said, will be dependent upon the ministries of health and education.

“If they allow us to, then we will. If not, we will continue with hybrid learning.”

Anglican Central
Education Authority

Anglican Central Education Authority (ACEA) schools noted a decrease in the number of 2021 applicants across all grade levels compared to previous years, according to Italia Davies, ACEA director.

On February 6, Davies said 199 students sat the seventh grade exam for the 2021 school year.

“[Of the total], 110 students who made the required grades in mathematics and language arts have been offered seats in our Anglican schools in the country,” said Davies.

“When we look at the overall results of all students who wrote our 2021 seventh grade entrance test, we see a vast difference in the scores ranging from the top cumulative score of 91 percent to the bottom cumulative score of 22 percent. Approximately 50 percent of these students will need extra assistance in mathematics and language because they have not mastered the basic concepts in these subjects required for seventh grade. Students are struggling with being able to retain core concepts because of the fluctuation in the different modalities of teaching. There has also been a loss in instruction time due to the frequent closure of schools.”

In the primary grade examinations, students who scored 60 percent and higher in their mathematics and language, were offered seats where vacancies existed. Grade 10 seat offerings are based on students’ BJC [Bahamas Junior Certificate] results and seat availability, according to Davies.

The director said applications for seventh grade admission was over-subscribed across all ACEA schools – St. John’s College, St. Anne’s School, Bishop Michael Eldon School on Grand Bahama and St. Andrew’s Anglican School on Exuma.

But across their schools, she said, they noted a decrease in the number of 2021 applicants across all grade levels compared to previous years.

“A major factor we feel is due to the impact that the pandemic has placed on the economic landscape of our country. The Anglican system is comprised of four fee-paying schools who do not offer unfunded scholarships,” said Davies.

As they prepare to wind down, Davies said ACEA seventh grade teachers will not be required to work any harder than they have been working over the years, because the students are entering the grade level with the necesssary pre-requisite skills. However, their students, she said, may present some social-emotional issues/challenges, which may impact their learning and will require their teachers to exercise more patience, skill, and empathy when interacting with them and their parents.

In the new academic year, Davies said ACEA schools plan to continue to follow all COVID-19 protocols. She said the learning model they will use will be dependent upon the instructions issued by the competent authority and the Ministry of Education, but they are hopeful that they will be allowed to return to their campuses in September and to normal routines.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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